A little while ago I got an email from Random House asking if I’d like to review Maurice Sendak’s illustrated Nutcracker.
I jumped at the chance and I’m very pleased to be able to talk about it with you here.
“A classic, new and complete. One of the ten best illustrated children’s books of the year.”New York Times Book Review.
The tale of Nutcracker, written by E.T.A. Hoffmann in 1816, has fascinated and inspired artists, composers, and audiences for almost two hundred years. It has retained its freshness because it appeals to the sense of wonder we all share.
Maurice Sendak designed brilliant sets and costumes for the Pacific Northwest Ballet’s Christmas production of Nutcracker and created even more magnificent pictures especially for this book. He joined with the eminent translator Ralph Manheim to produce this illustrated edition of Hoffmann’s wonderful tale, destined to become a classic for all ages.
The world of Nutcracker is a world of pleasures. Maurice Sendak’s art illuminates the delights of Hoffmann’s story in this rich and tantalizing treasure.
A quick Google search yields a few pictures of the ballet.
“My immediate reaction to the request that I design Nutcracker was negative.”
Sendak thought of this book as being comprised of “two separate entities” with the costumes and designs from the production making up the one half and the other being the new work he did specifically for the book.
“In changing hats from designer to illustrator I have been faced with a curious dilemma. After all, there are whole sequences in the tale itself that never appear on the stage. Rather adjust these designs to fit the book, I decided to completely illustrate ‘The Story of the Hard Nut’. Because of this decision the pictures for this book are composed of two separate entities. There are the designs and costumes from the ballet version and then the fresh pictures done specifically for the tale. In addition, there are a few to animate the original stage designs and a few more that I could not or would not resist doing.”
“I endowed her with the wisdom and strength I conjure up to endow all my children and then surrounded her with a minefield of problems.”
“The stage became her half-real, half-nightmare battleground. The drama grew naturally as we watched Clara, frightened yet exuberant, cross that battleground.”
Again, an image from the ballet itself, not from the book.
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